Notts County's 107 points will mean little at Wembley, admits Williams

Our 107 points means nothing at Wembley, insists Luke Williams, but the Notts County boss says his side will be fearless against local rivals Chesterfield in the National League play-off final

  • Notts County finished second in National League behind Wrexham this season
  • Tally of 107 points would have been good enough in every previous campaign
  • Luke Williams insists his side have nothing to fear as they bid for play-off success

In every previous National League season, Notts County’s tally of 107 points would have been enough to secure the title at a canter. But not this campaign, a year like no other in the history of non-League football.

After 46 games of pulsating drama, Wrexham pulled clear in the battle at the top. And so Luke Williams and his record-breaking heroes, who should be on the beach celebrating a return to the Football League, have been forced to make the exciting yet perilous pilgrimage to Wembley.

They face local rivals Chesterfield in the National League play-off final on Saturday afternoon.

Returning to the home of English football evokes unpleasant memories for both Williams and several of his players, who were part of the squad that suffered a play-off final defeat against Harrogate under the famous arch three years ago.

‘Experience is huge… if you’ve been to Wembley and suffered then your worst fears have already come true, you have nothing left to fear,’ says Williams.

Luke Williams has said his players have nothing to fear at Wembley on Saturday

Williams and a number of his squad were involved as they missed out on promotion to Harrogate in 2020

Another trip to Wembley awaits Notts County as they look to win promotion to League Two

‘This is a chance to go and put things right and have a second attempt which you may never have had.

‘I was assistant manager at Swindon in the League One play-off final when we got destroyed by Preston (4-0 in 2015). It was a steep learning curve. There are one or two things, in hindsight, we could have done differently and I’ve tried to implement them here.

‘I really hope they help us but we will only know how good our preparation was when we see the outcome of the game.’

Notts very nearly threw away their opportunity in spectacular fashion last weekend in the semi-final against Boreham Wood.

The Wood finished sixth in the league and a massive 35 points behind their play-off opponents but the underdogs raced into a two-goal lead at Meadow Lane.

Yet as they have done so many times this season, Williams’ side found a way. Usually that piece of magic has come from their relentless, 42-goal striker Macaulay Langstaff — ‘the non-League Haaland’ — or from the boot of star midfielder Ruben Rodrigues.

But this time it was loanee winger Jodi Jones, brought on as a substitute, who fired home the winner in the final minute of extra time to book their trip to the capital.

Macaulay Langstaff – the ‘non-league Haaland’ – has rescued his side on countless occasions this season

Notts County looked to have their season ended in the most heartbreaking of circumstances against Boreham Wood in the play-off semi-finals but came from behind to win

Jodi Jones was the hero against Boreham Wood – scoring the winner in the final minute of extra-time

One man who will be on the hearts and minds of everyone connected to Notts County at Wembley is Jason Turner. The club’s chief executive was just 50 when he passed away suddenly in March. Four days before the Boreham Wood game, Williams was among the pallbearers at Turner’s funeral.

‘Without any question he’s in my thoughts and I’m sure those of many other people at the club every day,’ adds Williams. ‘There are many things we do on a day-to-day basis which he was integral to so you can’t help but remember Jason.

‘Apart from all the things we see around Meadow Lane which are directly linked to him, the personality and the energy of the man is not something you forget very easily. There will be many thoughts of Jason when we’re at Wembley.’

Wrexham’s Hollywood co- owners, Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, have been two of the loudest voices in not only paying tribute to Turner but wishing Notts well in the play-offs.

The Americans are said to be travelling over for Saturday’s game to support the oldest professional club in the world’s bid for a return to the Football League after four years away.

Chesterfield will have other ideas, of course. Paul Cook, the first manager to complete a full season there in a decade, is taking his team to Wembley for the second time following their Football League Trophy defeat by Peterborough in 2014.

That was in his first spell at the club, when he also took them to the League Two title.

The Spireites are not short of superstars themselves: right back Jeff King and winger Ryan Colclough were both named in the National League team of the season this week.

Notts County face Paul Cook’s Chesterfield – a team that finished 23 points behind them in the league

And while Cook admitted he was struggling to trust his players after a defeat by Bromley three weeks ago, questions over the squad’s character were surely dispelled last week when they beat the same opponents to reach Wembley.

Leading 2-1, they looked set for the final before Michael Cheek’s goal in the ninth minute of stoppage time took the game into extra time.

But the Spireites responded to the crushing blow and secured their spot thanks to Liam Mandeville’s winner.

Now their focus is on Wembley — and the final chapter of this season to remember.

Notts County v Chesterfield, 3.30pm, Wembley, LIVE on BT Sport 1.

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